Nothing quite like home

Well after a month of adventures in Australia with a little bit of running thrown in, it was nice to be home. The jet lag  wasn’t too bad in terms of sleeping patterns but a bit of a pain in terms of being generally tired and really hungry at random times. We arrived back on Saturday 4th August and on Sunday morning woke up early. We decided to run. My ankles still felt a bit tired but any real soreness had gone. Generally I just felt tight from having been curled up on planes for too much of the previous 48 hours or so.

This is nearly two weeks ago now so my memory is a bit fuzzy – I think we set off separately. We were aiming for the 6 miles listed on the Dopey Plan and wanted to have a nosey at the new canal towpath between Riddlesden and Silsden too. It was quite hard going and my feet kept going numb like they do when my calves are too tight so I walked rather more than I really wanted to but it was good to get out and the familiarity of the landscape made me smile. It was lovely to see and hear birds that I recognised and to see how things had changed over the month we’d been gone. 6.2 miles in the bank.

The second run at home was my attempt to get into good habits and not keep putting off speed sessions. We did the runners world fartlek we’ve done before and I didn’t do too badly except that I obviously pushed too hard on the 1 minute run and was a little bit sick, recovered and then did the two 30 second intervals at a steady pace. Speed work not avoided! Well done me. Next I wanted to do a 45 minute continuous run because while I haven’t been doing run/walk, I have been running with photo stops. I haven’t run continuously for ages. So I set off and felt pretty good for the first two miles or so. The canal towpath was busy though with lots of people coming towards me and I didn’t fancy turning round and having to go past all these people again so I changed my mind last minute and crossed the canal – I wasn’t mentally ready for the hill which threw me and I had to stop and walk. At the top I set off again and past a dog walker whose dog decided it would come with me instead. I had to stop and wait for him to retrieve it. Unfortunately this happened at the bottom of the next slope and I didn’t get going again until I’d walked to the top. Still it ended up being a pretty solid 45 minutes.

Then came the weekend long run last weekend – 7 miles was the plan. We went up towards Ilkley Moor and I was pretty pleased with how I managed to keep pushing from landmark to landmark. One day I might be able to run it all but for now that’ll do nicely. At the top we decided to turn left rather than right towards the trig point and stanza stones. It’s often really wet and boggy left so we’d never run it before. At the end of that track we went left again and explored a new (well no, new to us) path/track/trail to take us back down towards home. At some point we must have got it just slightly wrong because we ended up on the other side of the wall to where the clear footpath was but it was all fine. Given the terrain and that we weren’t quite sure where we were going we ended up walking a fair bit and the loop was 6 mile rather than the 7 but it was a fun little adventure.

This week I have done 2 45 minute Dopey Training runs  – one nice little plod along the canal with Kath which was uneventful and then the re-run of the route I did last week where I had to walk the slopes. This time I wanted to run it all and had asked Kath to help me. I really need to stop avoiding hills or deciding to walk the ones that are perfectly runnable! So we set off and I felt pretty good. The first mile was just under 12 minutes and I wondered whether I should slow down a bit to make sure I had enough in the tank but I felt good so just kept moving by feel rather than worrying about pace. Coming up the the bridge we were crossing and the hill that had thrown me last time I started repeating in my head: I feel good, I feel strong…. over and over. The hill came and went and I realised that my breathing and heart rate were recovering. I did actually feel good and strong. I kept the mantra going and the slope where I had to wait last week for the dog to be retrieved didn’t seem bad at all. Then there was the final little hill. I had a moment of doubt but then I thought I had less than 5 minutes to go so just needed to hang on. The hill somehow came and went and I kept running at the top. My legs didn’t give up and then my breathing recovered and I felt my heart rate settle again. I pushed the pace to the end of the road and stopped having run just over 45 minutes at 12.02 minutes per mile pace. Thrilled with that.

Next is the weekend 9 miler. I’ll be doing this run/walk with the aim of keeping the runs relatively fast, the walks positive and my mind off negative notions of things it might suddenly decide are impossible. Nothing is impossible. Which is a good thing because the Great North Run is looming.

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300 Miles of Happy Running (mostly)

Well it’s been a little while. Usually that means I haven’t been running but this time I’ve just been busy. My last blog post was a couple fo days after the half marathon and recovery went pretty well. Following the run on Toronto Island, I then had a treadmill run in the hotel gym – in spite of rather spectacular views from there, I managed only 2.5 miles and a stupidly slow pace. Slower than the half marathon average pace in fact.

The day after getting home I had a lovely run through the wood with bluebells and wild garlic. It was the first run in really warm weather though and it felt tough. Then I didn’t run for a few days – busy, couldn’t be bothered, usual excuses. Then I got my act together and went for a sheep loop trot out. Last Sunday I thought I best get training for multiple loops so in the morning we went up. 3 miles of up (ok 2 miles of real up). It was sooooo 33834416_989649484548533_537151107076456448_nhard, I’m really not hill fit at all but once up on the moor it was gorgeous. It was a perfect day for being up there and we’d gone early so we were on our way back down when the first set of hikers were making their way up. We saw some lapwings and heard curlews. The grouse were chattering away in their grumpy way and up on the moor I felt like I was running free and easy. It felt perfect. Those moments you just need to hang onto and file in the memory bank so you have something to draw on when the dark closes in.

In the afternoon we went out for round 2. A gentle estate, road, canal jog with lots of little excuses to stop and watch wildlife. I think it was on this loop I saw the deer vanish into the wood in front of me and stopping to watch ducklings always makes me smile. It was good to get out twice and not feel too knackered or broken.

Last Tuesday we added some hill sprints to our sheep loop backwards route. Instead of walking up the golf course we made our way up it in 10 -15 second sprints with 90 seconds (ish) recovery in-between. That took us to 4 out of the 5 sprints so we walked back down the last bit and did it again. So hill sprints – by how my legs felt afterwards I’m guessing they’re quite effective!

IMG_9614Then I went to London. The less said about my first day there, the better! I did blog about it here if anyone is interested in my thoughts on legal education but in short – I was exhausted and wired at the same time and thought running would help with the wired part so that I could actually sleep. I’d got to the hotel about 5.30pm though, it was busy. I felt a bit self-conscious. I got my gear on anyway and set off. I had no idea about where I wanted to go – I was roughly a mile away from the river and roughly a mile away from Regent’s Park and I didn’t want to go far so in the end I just decided to randomly loop round the streets for a bit. I did a little circuit round the British Museum dodging tourists and commuter cyclists and weaved in and out of side streets, eventually ending up at a Pret where I bought a salad box and little dark chocolate bar for my tea. Then I walked back to the IMG_9607hotel. I managed to somehow not turn on my watch when I started off and then turn it on when I thought I was turning it off at Pret and then realise and turn it off at the hotel. I tried to retrace my steps on google maps and I think I did roughly 2 miles. I was out for just over half an hour including buying food so that sounds about right.IMG_9591

The next morning I woke up early, got up and headed out again. I still wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go or how far really – I thought the river might be nice. I set off. I don’t understand how London hangs together. Don’t laugh – I spent years only being able to navigateit by tube and really have only recently started exploring on foot – mostly through running – but it means I have a warped sense of direction and distances. So I headed pretty much in a straight line through bits of theatre land I don’t usually see and eventually to Trafalgar square where I tried to take a selfie with a Lion and couldn’t get

IMG_9590the angle so took a selfie and then a picture of the lion – grumpily. Then I headed straight towards Buckingham Palace (this wasn’t the plan, it’s just what happened) and when I got there turned off into St James’ Park. I ran a gauntlet of ducks and geese and continued until I came out at Horse Guards Road.  I saw a mouse (or very small rat, who knows) run into the FCO and chuckled. I made my way to the river, across the river and ran past the London Eye and all the way along to Millennium Bridge. I stopped to take a few pictures and walk across it talking to Kath hoping that Lord Voldemort wouldn’t choose this moment to play with the bridge. London had woken up and was now much busier with runners and people
IMG_9597walking to work or going about their business than it had been when I left the hotel. I turned left past St Paul’s and stopped to look at google maps – Oh look Fleet Street – who knew! I ran down Fleet Street, took a picture of the Royal Courts of Justice sign, carried on and saw a coffee shop out of the corner of my eye. Mmmmmm cofffeeeeeeeeee! I decided I wanted coffee. It was just before 7am. The coffee shop was still closed but the one next to it wasn’t. I got coffee and walked back to the hotel. A great 6 and a bit mile London loop.

I didn’t run Friday and Saturday dragged by butt out for 3.25 miles after our gym induction at the Leisure Centre (more on that another time). I wanted to go out again really but I was absolutely shattered. No double running for me, I fell asleep instead.

So today. I knew I was going on my own because Kath has a little foot niggle that she’s been looking after. So the original 12 mile plan needed revising. I’m not sure 12 miles on 34036580_989647691215379_7069943930778812416_nmy own is really necessary. I looked at my chart and a plan formed. I walked down Ilkley Road with Kath who was off to pick some wild garlic for our risotto tonight and then I set off. I headed towards Morton and kept running apart from a few steps along the path to avoid breaking my ankle through the narrow uneven bits. I ran the first 5km relatively quickly for me – just over 37 minutes, comfortable. Then I walked for a couple of minutes to have a drink. Then I ran to 5 miles and it was now getting tougher and towards the end I realised that I was developing a blister on the arch of my left foot. I’ll spare you the picture but it’s a bitch. I wanted to get under an hour for the 5 miles but I’d walked for too long to make it – just over. Still happy with that though. I walked and watched a kestrel zig zag across the canal accompanied by a cacophony of smaller birds’ warning cries, then I tried to plod on. I was hot. I pushed to 6 miles. I could really feel my blister and my legs were getting tired. I walked up the golf course hill. I ran down the other side and past our old sheep fields. My legs were now protesting. Hot.

I walked quite a lot from here to home but recovered well with a jog downhill.  I felt pretty good when I got to the bottom of Ilkley Road and thought I would try run up it, I stepped off the curb to go round a dog walker and whimpered at the pain of the blister and the shooting pain the move had sent up my leg. I was obviously not running properly in order to avoid the blister pain. I walked the rest.

IMG_9543So, including the walk with Kath that was about 8 miles but if I count the 7.75 recorded by my watch then the Year to Date Total now stands at 300.18 miles. 300.18. I’m thrilled with that! It took me well into August to get to that amount last year and I don’t feel like I’m really pushing the miles or working at an unsustainable level. I feel like I’m running strong and that I have a pretty good balance between running for fun and pushing myself. As part of the #Run1000Miles Challenge I’ve said that really I just want to do more than last year (500 miles) but that 750 would be awesome. I’m now wondering whether 800 might be on the cards. Let’s see.

Happy Running!

Mixed Running with Grumpy Grouse

I haven’t run all week. I was the queen of excuses. The last run was Sunday and it was miserable. In fact it was barely a run but I guess just getting the first post-holiday run out of the way is a good thing. Then I made excuses all week, partly based on just being a bit busy with a fair amount of travel and long days in the week and just feeling a bit broken. I was going to go to the gym on Tuesday but I felt tired and achey and like any muscle in my body might just snap if I ask anything at all of it. That’s also the reason I didn’t run. I actually took my gym kit to work on Thursday but I never made it across. Friday was, well Friday at the end of a long and busy week and once I got home I didn’t really move off the sofa again.

I get that sometimes you need rest and that a week really isn’t that dramatic even if it comes after 2 weeks holiday but when I don’t run regularly the tiny little bit of confidence I have with this disappears and I start at square 1. So in a week I have managed to convince myself that I cannot run, that a mile is too far, that I should start again with a complete beginners programme or just pack it in completely and that it would probably be a good idea to pull out of the Lakeland Trails challenges coming up in a few weeks. I’m persuasive like that.

I have also been mulling over the numbers on our training plan for this weekend with a mixture of bemusement and terror. 8 miles Saturday, 8 miles Sunday. Perfectly reasonable when you are training for back to back 15/14km runs but not perfectly reasonable when you have convinced yourself that you can’t run to the postbox at the end of your road. I knew I’d either have to do it or make excuses today. So I decided that Kath and I hadn’t really seen each other all week and a slow morning with coffee and breakfast in bed was just what we needed. There we are. Making decisions about running that utterly impossible distance put off!

At lunch time our decorator (he’s awesome, if you ever need one locally, give us a shout) was coming round to have a look at some work we need and once he left I didn’t have any credible excuses left. Now all we needed was a route. I don’t think either of us fancied the canal towpath with the potential for lots of people walking. Instead we decided to go up to Ilkley Moor. Now this might have added to the terror usually but actually, cynically, I just thought it was ok because it meant I could legitimately walk more! I think looking at the profile you can see my justification for walking!

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We walked up the hill with a couple of little jogs. Goodness that was hard. I felt fairly miserable and inadequate just walking up! But it’s hard to be too grumpy surrounded by the slightly moody beginnings of Ilkley Moor. There were birds around, all sorts of birds and a fair amount of very suspicious sheep. I couldn’t see any grouse but I could hear their grumbles in the distance and it made me laugh. Once on the path on the moor we set off running. The path is made up of big stone flags through the bog. I loved running that stretch. I had to concentrate on where I was putting my feet but it felt sort of methodical and purposeful and not too hard (I was running at a pace that was easy for me physically because I had to concentrate on placing my feet). Right up on the moor the grouse grumbles were louder and more plentiful and I couldn’t help but giggle to myself and try and look for the owners of those voices. I couldn’t take my eyes off the path for long though so I only saw one or two coming in to land. I really enjoyed miles 3 and 4 and the first bit of mile 5. Then we started going downhill. At just before 4 miles Kath had asked me whether we should do the loop or turn back and retrace our steps to do an out and back 8 miles. I should have said turn back!

The first bit of downhill was ok and I found my rhythm and kept moving. Then it got steep, very steep and there were steps of sorts but as regular readers will know, I am terrified of downhill. I had a couple of moments where I nearly froze and felt like I couldn’t move but move I did and eventually, somehow, we reached the bottom. I didn’t hear any grouse but maybe that’s because I was whimpering more loudly than they were grumbling. I’d tensed everything up and could feel niggles setting in everywhere: knees, ankles, feet, shoulders, hips… we walked a bit more and then tried a few little runs but I was struggling  – more mentally than physically. We picked up the road back up from Ilkley for a very short stretch and then we could have kept going on that or take the footpath straight up the hill which is shorter but steeper. I suggested the footpath because I wanted to keep practising and keep being positive and pushing myself. About half way up I wished I hadn’t. I felt a bit sick and my hips were screaming at me to stop. The top came eventually after a few stops to admire the view and fight back the tears. There were grouse, I could hear them again.

We walked the rest of the track/road, came through the gate marking the start (or rather end, for us) of Ilkley Moor proper as two women were trying to retrieve their dog from somewhere it shouldn’t have been in the first place with very limited success. We started jogging down towards home grumbling about people not keeping their dogs under control. I was pleasantly surprised I could still run (although whether it was actually recognisable as ‘running’, I have no idea). Just as I thought I might have to ask for a walk in spite of actually being on a downhill section, we saw them: 2 grouse on the wall – male and female I think and they were more interested in each other than us so Kath managed to get a picture. They gave me a little boost to run a bit more.

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We had a little walk just over half way down to have a sip of water and then again to walk up the little hill. I was struggling to get going again. I didn’t want to run but I wanted to be home so I just kept counting to 8 over and over again and tried not to think at all, just count, just focus on the repetitive footfall and numbers. I got home. 9.2 miles of mixed emotions, of loving and hating running, of thinking I can do anything to allowing some self doubt back in.

I have had some food and a bath and I’ve stretched a little (more later) and on reflection, it was a good run.  I can feel it, I worked hard, I may ache tomorrow but I am not as broken as I felt when we first got home. Lots to learn from, lots of positives and stunning views and most of all I remember the sound of the grouse who cheered us on in their grumbly sort of way all the way round. They sort of sound like they are enjoying grumpily and grudgingly telling a story to someone who is a bit short of time. I love that noise and I love that I can enjoy it minutes from our home.

Early mornings, herons and stunning views

We were struggling to to fit in all our runs this week with work being a little insane (A-level results week and University Clearing are manic for me) so our schedule has gone to pot a bit. We’re just about fitting everything in though.

  1. Running with Herons

Our first maintenance run this week was on Tuesday – still on schedule. I was a little worried given the tummy incident the run before. We also needed to go really early in the morning to fit it in.We set the alarm for 4.30, got up and dressed and set off. I decided not to try food and go on empty. My tummy was slightly bubbly but ok. It was a gorgeous and completely still morning and somehow our footfall felt loud and like we were intruding on something. Nature was going about its business and we weren’t part of that business. Rabbits were bobbing about, cats were mousing, birds were coming to life stretching their wings, ducks were slowly emerging onto the canal and a group of cows came down to (and into) the canal for a drink. As we ran towards Silsden we saw Hugo the heron and he flew off and landed ahead of us as if teasing ‘you’ll never catch up’. We didn’t, we turned round before we reached him. About half way back along the canal we saw another heron and this one also kept flying a little ahead and landing again. Suddenly it was joined by a second, so we now have three Hugos and 2 of them were right there with us. I briefly wondered if they felt threatened by us and we were actually chasing them but they didn’t seemed worried. Rather they seemed to be enjoying themselves. It really was like we were running with them and just as we got to our last bridge and last 20 seconds they turned and flew off over the fields. I’d forgotten about running, it was a lovely moment.

2. Running on the moors

Today we finally managed to fit in our second maintenance run and we initially thought we’d do it at Bolton Abbey again but then thought it might be busy so decided to head up onto Ikley Moor instead. We drove up. It was a really hard run (my lungs are still rattling a bit) but it was stunning. I was up there last week going for a walk with Dad and took some pictures. Today is a very similar day so here are some of the views we tried to enjoy while running:

It wasn’t always easy to enjoy the view – the path is quite uneven. It starts off like this:

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but a little further along the path is made up of big stones which are uneven and wobbly on the moor. I wouldn’t like to run it when the stones are wet but it was a dry and slightly breezy day. It was an odd sort of run in terms of fitness and how I felt. My legs felt fine all the way but my lungs were struggling. They were burning after the first run interval (which was uphill) and never really recovered. I was struggling to suck in the air all the way but still didn’t really find it that difficult to keep going. I just couldn’t go faster. We took a few walk breaks out towards the end but I enarly needed to put the last one in – I was saved by the downhill at the end of the path (the bit you can see in the photo but coming the other way).

I loved that run. I actually really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it being hard and I enjoyed finishing it and having done it and having seen the views and managed the uneven bit. I just enjoyed being out.

As for distance and pace – who cares? I wrote it down, as we always do and I think both were somewhere around the 12 and a half minutes per mile but both were gorgeous runs and that, I have decided, it was matters.